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Hailed recently by the Daily Telegraph as ‘a voice of real distinction’, Nicky Spence is fast emerging as one of ‘our finest young singers’. An artist of great integrity, Nicky’s unique skills as a singing actor and the rare honesty in his musicianship are steadfastly earning him a place at the top of the profession. Highlights for this season include his Metropolitan Opera debut as Brian Two Boys, Steva Jenufa at La Monnaie, Brussels, Steersman The Flying Dutchman in concert with the CBSO under Andris Nelsons and at Scottish Opera, Isacco La Gazza Ladra for Frankfurt Opera, Francesco Benvenuto Cellini in Amsterdam/ENO, Iago Otello (Rossini) for Buxton Festival and an appearance at the BBC Proms with the BBCSSO. Other concerts include his New York recital debut with Malcolm Martineau, a performance of Beethoven Symphony No.9 at the Barbican with the Philharmonia and a Valentines Concert Series with the RNSO and Kwame Ryan. On stage, Nicky’s other roles include Brian in the World Premiere of Nico Muhly’s Two Boys and Novice Billy Budd (dir. David Alden) for the ENO; Chevalier de la Force Les Dialogues des Carmélites for

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Hailed recently by the Daily Telegraph as ‘a voice of real distinction’, Nicky Spence is fast emerging as one of ‘our finest young singers’. An artist of great integrity, Nicky’s unique skills as a singing actor and the rare honesty in his musicianship are steadfastly earning him a place at the top of the profession.

Highlights for this season include his Metropolitan Opera debut as Brian Two Boys, Steva Jenufa at La Monnaie, Brussels, Steersman The Flying Dutchman in concert with the CBSO under Andris Nelsons and at Scottish Opera, Isacco La Gazza Ladra for Frankfurt Opera, Francesco Benvenuto Cellini in Amsterdam/ENO, Iago Otello (Rossini) for Buxton Festival and an appearance at the BBC Proms with the BBCSSO. Other concerts include his New York recital debut with Malcolm Martineau, a performance of Beethoven Symphony No.9 at the Barbican with the Philharmonia and a Valentines Concert Series with the RNSO and Kwame Ryan.

On stage, Nicky’s other roles include Brian in the World Premiere of Nico Muhly’s Two Boys and Novice Billy Budd (dir. David Alden) for the ENO; Chevalier de la Force Les Dialogues des Carmélites for Grange Park Opera; Don Ottavio Don Giovanni for New Zealand Opera; Tamino The Magic Flute (dir. Sir Thomas Allen) and Baron Lummer Intermezzo for Scottish Opera; Lampwick The Adventures of Pinocchio at Opera North; Quint The Turn of the Screw for Arcola Theatre, London; Thomas Mason in Jenny McLeod’s opera Hohepa for New Zealand Opera; MacHeath The Beggar’s Opera, Tom Rakewell The Rake’s Progress and Jaquino Fidelio at Opera Holland Park. Future opera plans include Rodolphe Giullame Tell and Mambre Mosè in Egitto at WNO, and David Die Meistersinger at the ENO.

Recent concert performances include Elgar's The Kingdom at Kings College, Cambridge; Act 1 of Tristan and Isolde with the BBC Scottish Symphony and Donald Runnicles; Finzi’s Dies Natalis with the BBC Concert Orchestra and David Hill; Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with L’Orchestre National d’Ile de France under Gordan Nikolic and at the Wigmore Hall with Chamber Domaine and Thomas Kemp; C-minor Mass at the Cadogan Hall with the English Chamber Orchestra; a live broadcast of Brahms Liebesliederwalzer at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw; a Beethoven recital at The Forge; a Britten Song-Cycle Series in Aldeburgh; a recital series at Kings Place as part of their Britten 100 celebrations, and appearances at the Oxford Lieder Festival, St. John’s Smith Square, Spitalfields festival and the Purcell Room.

An experienced recording artist, Nicky attracted a long-term recording contract with Universal Classics at a young age and has increasing recognition on stage, radio and television as a presenter and performer alike, having contributed to tours and Platinum Selling disks the world over. In latter years, he has enjoyed successful collaborations on record with Graham Johnson (Schumann: The Complete Songs Vol. 10 / Hyperion), Britten Songs with Malcolm Martineau (Onyx), Messiaen’s La Mort du Nombre with Sholto Kynoch (Stone Records) and a disc of premiere Hoddinott recordings.   Adding to his credentials in contemporary repertoire, his recent world-premiere recording of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s song cycle A Constant Obsession, for Resonus Classics, received uniformly excellent reviews.  Earlier this year, Nicky released his debut solo recital disc with Malcolm Martineau entitled As you like it: Shakespeare Songs, which brought him great acclaim: ‘Nicky Spence is a young singer with a lovely sound, an astonishingly varied emotional range, and a way of telling a story through a song that grips the listener and doesn’t let go… He has the true singer’s gift of communication, without which these works would just be pretty but dull sounds. Instead – with the help of some superb accompanying from Malcolm Martineau – he brings them alive with joy, pain, love, despair and wit.’ - Warwick Thompson. Future recording plans include a CD of Eichendorff settings by Wolf with Sholto Kynoch, a recital disc of French Repertoire with Malcolm Martineau for Chandos Records and a disc of première Jonathan Dove Song-Cylces for Naxos.

Nicky is currently a Harewood Artist at  the ENO made possible by the American Friends of the ENO, having trained at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the National Opera Studio.  A former Britten-Pears Young Artist, Georg Solti and Samling Scholar, Nicky’s awards also include the National Bruce Millar Opera Prize, the Kathleen Ferrier Young Singers Award, the Concordia Barthel Prize, the Sybil Tutton Award, a Young Classical Performer of the Year nomination at the Classical Brit Awards and inclusion into the Gold Medal Final at the Guildhall School.

March 2014

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Reviews

"Spence’s voice is naturally thrilling, radiant and luminescent in just about every second of this programme, crossing stylistic boundaries with the silvery ease of a born entertainer…"

***** CD Review 'As You Like It...' - The Scotsman

"Nicky Spence, also a tenor, aptly stresses superficiality as the callow Steva…"

Jenůfa - George Loomis, The New York Times

"Together with the two differentiated and powerful tenors Charles Workman (Laca) and Nicky Spence (Steva), who compete for Jenufa, the Brussels opera has together a terrific ensemble of singers"

Jenůfa - Stefan Keim, Die Welt

"Nicky Spence characterises the golden boy and coward Steva with his radiant tenor"

Jenůfa - Christoph Schmitz, Deutsche Radio

"Nicky Spence rose to the challenge of ringing every possible drop of emotion from the score ... [He] sang with grace and aplomb."

Britten's War Requiem - Christie Franke, Bachtrack

"Nicky Spence was a stylish Chevalier de la Force"

Dialogues des Carmélites - Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph

"Elsewhere, vocal vigour never wavered … Nicky Spence, incisive as a knife, made the most of Blanche’s brother."

Dialogues des Carmélites - Geoff Brown, The Times

"Three singers save the day: Nicky Spence makes a featuring role of the usually negligible Chevalier (Blanche’s brother)."

Dialogues des Carmélites - Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times

"Nicky Spence showed a nice lyric freedom in his performance, the flexibility which he brought to the role belied its high tessitura. Not for the first time with this opera, I wished that Poulenc had found more for the Chevalier de la Force to do."

Dialogues des Carmélites - Robert Hugill

"Nicky Spence’s Chevalier is brimming with barely-restrained emotion"

Dialogues des Carmélites - Belle Lupton, The Huffington Post

"Tenor Nicky Spence was in ringing voice as Blanche’s brother, the Chevalier de la Force; every word registered and he clearly conveyed his dilemma when visiting Blanche to persuade her to escape. "

Dialogues des Carmélites - Opera Britannia

"[…] Nicky Spence’s Steersman made up the expert cast. Spence’s rumbustious yet delicate ceilidh display, with his troosers slipping down, could go viral if someone puts it on YouTube."

The Flying Dutchman - Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

"[...] Nicholls and Spence are outstanding."

The Flying Dutchman - Anna Picard, The Independant

"The Helmsman (Nicky Spence scene-stealing fettle) is a cheeky chappy, hormone-charged and boozy."

The Flying Dutchman - Kate Molleson, The Guardian

"Nicky Spence is a gallus helmsman, but he sings “Mit Gewitter und Sturm aus fernem Meer” with fervour and tenderness..."

The Flying Dutchman - Catriona Graham, Opera Critic

"Nicky Spence (tenor) caught the solemn, ritualistic tone of the canticle well, Spence coming into his own most of all in the dramatic penultimate stanza and the awed intonement of the closing lines."

Britten Canticle III, New Works at the Purcell Room - Bachtrack

"[…] a young singer with a lovely sound, an astonishingly varied emotional range, and a way of telling a story through a song that grips the listener and doesn't let go […] He has the true singer’s gift of communication, without which these works would just be pretty but dull sounds. Instead – with the help of some superb accompanying from Malcolm Martineau – he brings them alive with joy, pain, love, despair and wit."

CD Review ‘As you like it...’ - Warwick Thompson, Sinfini

"[Nicky Spence's] Steersman was delightful, slipping into yawns and slumber as he idled in his chair in Act I, though the singing always stayed pointed and vigorous."

The Flying Dutchman CBSO - Geoff Brown, The Times

"Fast-rising tenor sings songs inspired by the Bard - Rich and quite strange, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is the only possible summation of this dazzling, bewildering collection of songs written for and inspired by Shakespeare. Spence is game for anything, starting with usual suspects (Purcell, Schubert and Quilter), creating donkey noises for Wolfs 'Lied des transferierten Zettel, going to emotional depths in Argento's marvellously spare Elizabethan Songs and bending his pliable tenor around the Cleo Laine-ish vocal lines in John Dankworth's 'Dunsinane Blues'."

'As You Like It' CD review - David Patrick Stearns, Gramophone

"Tenor Nicky Spence found it difficult not to steal the show from his fellow performers [...]. His charisma and trademark twinkle on Kurt Weill's Lonely House, from Street Scene, produced whooping and gruff chants of "Brilliant, son!" from the crowd."

Opera Highlights Tour, Scottish Opera - Marianne Gunn, Herald Scotland

"Nicky Spence was a clarion off-stage Young Seaman."

Tristan und Isolde BBCSSO - Kate Molleson, The Guardian

"As Tamino, the tenor Nicky Spence, abundantly talented vocally and also a good actor, joined in with wry humour, loosening up a character who can seem strait-laced but never overplaying it. "

The Magic Flute, Scottish Opera - Fiona Maddocks, The Observer

"Nicky Spence is a perfect fit as Tamino, an easy actor with a smooth, bright tenor."

The Magic Flute, Scottish Opera - Kate Molleson, The Guardian

"Nicky Spence sings sweetly and musically as a gentlemanly Tamino"

The Magic Flute, Scottish Opera - Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph

"Nicky Spence’s impressively accomplished Prince Tamino, sung with beautiful lyricism and sensitivity from the [...] young Scottish tenor."

The Magic Flute, Scottish Opera - Carol Main, The List

"[...] the charming, ardent Nicky Spence"

The Magic Flute, Scottish Opera - Richard Morrison, The Times

"And the tenor Nicky Spence changed my conception of the Novice. [...] With his husky frame and penetrating voice, Mr. Spence was a different kind of victim: an overgrown weakling who will do anything to avoid pain and punishment. "

Billy Budd, ENO - Anthony TommasiniI, The New York Times

"This Novice [...] must have been pressed by someone other than Claggart, and Spence sang with bags of incisive tone and freshly conceived characterization, turning what can seem a minor role into a major one. "

Billy Budd, ENO - Rodney Miles, Opera Magazine

"There's a knockout novice in Nicky Spence (who enlarges the role to near-centrality)"

Billy Budd, ENO - Michael White, The Telegraph

"Other "featuring" performers steal the limelight. [...] Nicky Spence's Novice makes a small role bigger with trenchant singing and a larger-than-life persona."

Billy Budd, ENO - Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times

"[...] Nicky Spence gave us some of the finest and most tender singing of the night."

Hohepa, NZ Opera - Kate McLean, Capital Times Wellington

"Nicky Spence is superb in the song cycle A Constant Obsession..."

CD Review: A Constant Obsession: Chamber Works by Mark Anthony Turnage. Ivan Hewett - Daily Telegraph

"[...] Nicky Spence delivers the song cycle A Constant Obsession with smoothness yet crystalline clarity"

CD Review - Turnage: Chamber Works. Editor's Choice, Classical Music Magazine

"A Constant Obsession [...] it receives a powerful performance. Dare I upset fans of Peter Pears by saying that I’d like to hear Nicky Spence now in preference to him in that Britten Serenade?"

CD Review: A Constant Obsession: Chamber works. Brian Wilson - Music Web International

"Nicky Spence is a superb soloist here - elegant expressive lines and a firm sense of pitch..."

A Constant Obsession, Turnage - Stephen Johnson, BBC Music Magazine

"[...] superb artistry [...] with pungent playing from Chamber Domaine [...] and the agile voice of tenor Nicky Spence. The song cycle A Constant Obsession [...] all crafted and performed lovingly, right down to Spence's carefully rolled 'r' in the word 'ripening'."

A Constant Obsession, Turnage - Geoff Brown, The Times

"With Nicky Spence also in fine form as the wicked ghost Peter Quint, this was a great opportunity to see two of the fastest rising stars on the British opera scene."

Turn of the Screw, Grimeborn, 2011. William Hartston - Express.co.uk

"Tenor Nicky Spence gives a performance of real distinction, capturing every detail of the text. His clean and robust sound is thrilling when enraptured with the music's drama, and almost whispers voyeuristically in telling the listener of the many paths on Traeth Bychan, a beach where lovers wander. "

CD Review: Alun Hoddinott - Song Cycles and Folksongs. Caroline McGee - Musical Pointers

"Proving again that he’s a real star in the making, Nicky Spence gives the standout performance."

Two Boys, English National Opera, London Coliseum. Simon Thomas, WhatsOnStage.com.

"Spence [...] broadly overcomes the awkwardness of adults playing children on the stage – and does it with arrestingly bright, bell-like resonance [...] Spence is turning out to be a voice of real distinction (ENO, Two Boys)"

The Telegraph

"Nicky Spence displayed much more vocal assurance in the central role of Brian [...] Spence conveyed poise and a depth of vocal presence through secure and powerful projection, and he commanded the melodic line without sacrificing a certain agility of touch. Spence's [...] assurance gives Two Boys an authoritative central vocal presence"

Two Boys, English National Opera, London Coliseum. Stephen Graham - MusicalCriticism.com

"Nicky Spence outdid all expectation in the vocal authority and shading of teenager assailant Brian."

Two Boys, English National Opera, London Coliseum. Alexandra Coghlan - NewStatesman.

"Brian, sung superbly by the young Scottish tenor Nicky Spence."

Two Boys, English National Opera, London Coliseum. Michael Roddy, Reuters.

"Nicky Spence relishes the eight-year old composer’s Burns setting “O that I had ne’er been married."

CD Review - Britten: Songs Volume 1. Andrew Clark, Financial Times.

"Nicky Spence's Who are these Children? is the outstanding performance of this volume: he really sells these wonderful settings [...] characterising their compassion. He also bewitches with three other Soutar settings which Britten discarded from the cycle."

CD Review: Britten Songs, Vol. 2: 'Who are these Children'. Hilary Finch, BBC Music Magazine

"[...] the stand-out performance comes from Nicky Spence, as the caddish Baron Lummer."

Intermezzo (Baron), Scottish Opera, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, March 2011. The Independent on Sunday, Anna Picard.

"Nicky Spence is the debonair but dishonest Baron, disguising his low intentions under some brilliant high notes..."

Intermezzo (Baron), Scottish Opera, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, March 2011. The Stage, George Hall.

"[...] Nicky Spence shone as a louche young Baron."

Intermezzo (Baron), Scottish Opera, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, March 2011.The Observer, Fiona Maddocks.

"As for Nicky Spence, a Tom with this much flair and energy would be a find for any professional company."

The Rake's Progress, British Youth Opera, September 2009. Anna Picard - The Independant.

"The most human I've seen for a while, largely because Nicky Spence, who sang Tom, is such an engaging performer. Spence has so much natural charm and charisma - star quality, even - that the opera was made to seem even more sadistic than usual. His clear, open projection of the character - very much the 21st century everyman - had a strong and lyrical vocal tone and at Mother Goose's and in London, Tom was heartbreaklingly aware of his fall, full of nostalgia but addicted to easeful. corruption."

The Rake's Progress, British Youth Opera, September 2009. Hugh Canning, Opera Now Magazine

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Discography